Friday in Spain saw Mercedes head the field by a significant margin, while McLaren’s woes continued and Fernando Alonso played a spot of tennis. Read about all the action from the Practice Sessions in Lights Out’s Friday Report!
Sergey Sirotkin deputised for Jolyon Palmer at Renault, completing ten laps during the session. While that’s plenty more than he managed in Russia before his unfortunately timed engine issues, car problems once again brought an early close to the Russian driver’s session. With fluid leaking from the bottom of the car, the floor was taken off with forty minutes of the session remaining. The issue was later confirmed to be a water leak.
“It was a short run for me in FP1, but that’s motor sport and it’s better to have an issue with the car in practice than in qualifying or the race. At least this time I ran further than in Sochi! The car felt good and I was able to do what was required whilst I was out on track. Obviously, I’m hopeful that next time I get a clean session, but I know everyone in the garage is working hard to ensure this is the case.”
Early on, Kevin Magnussen reported there was ‘absolutely no grip’ when he was completing installation laps on the hard tyres. The cars did seem unable to stay on the track for very long on the hard tyre, with Romain Grosjean also having multiple wide moments.
Felipe Massa was the first to get a time on the board – a 1:27.199. The fastest time set here in Winter Testing was a 1:18.634, set by Kimi Raikkonen.
Alonso span off the track at Turn Two early on in the session. As his rear wheels locked, the Spaniard came to a halt with plenty of smoke billowing out of the rear of his car. His session was over as Honda’s engine woes continued. The marshals struggled to move the car at first as it failed to go into neutral. There was liquid spilling out of the car as it was eventually lifted and craned away. It is now four years since Fernando’s last Grand Prix win, which was at this track in 2013. Alonso left the circuit and returned to his hotel. He posted an image of himself playing tennis with the caption ‘keeping the body active’ on his Instagram account before the session had finished.
After an out-lap mid-way through the session, Sebastian Vettel pulled to the side of the track just past the pit exit. He reported an issue with the gearbox and opted to stop close to the pits so that his car could easily get back to the garage. The issue was fixed and Vettel went on to set the fourth fastest time in the session.
Magnussen trundled along the grass at Turn Four toward the end of the session. He locked up going into the corner and ran over the gravel, coming to a halt on the grass with a gearbox issue. The issues didn’t hamper the rest of the Danish driver’s day.
“We had a good morning and got some good data on the car. There wasn’t really much useful learning in FP2. The track was very different and the car wasn’t behaving as expected. We’ll look into that and hopefully improve it for Saturday. It’s not quite clear yet why we were happy this morning and not in the afternoon. It was a lot windier this afternoon, but then that was the same for everyone. We looked less competitive and we need to try and understand that. Hopefully, we can get back to where we know we should be.”
It was Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen who exchanged times at the top. Mercedes ended the session fastest – just three hundredths of a second separated Hamilton from Bottas. Ferrari were close to a second off Mercedes’ pace, so it was certainly a strong start to the day for the reigning champions.
Full Result from Free Practice One:
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.185|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1.563|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+2.483|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||+2.667|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+2.803|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+3.121|
|20||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||No Time|
The weather stayed dry as the second practice session approached, with the track temperature at 44.5°C. Alonso arrived back in the paddock ahead of the session, and headed back out on track with the McLaren’s issues hopefully fixed. Fernando did one installation lap before the team carried out a lengthy inspection at the rear of the car. The MCL32 eventually reappeared with less than half of the session remaining. He completed 21 laps in the session.
“I have had very little time in recent weeks to train with traveling etc so when they confirmed I had two hours free, instead of being here watching on television I went for some training. My dedication is still 100 percent to my fitness and to my preparation. It is only Friday so what can we do? It is nothing we can change. It is not an ideal start to the weekend but the important thing is on Sunday. It was not a funny thing to go outside of the circuit to play tennis, it was a preparation. People got it wrong that I went to have some fun and to forget the circuit. It was full dedication to my job to be fit for FP2.”
There were plenty of off-track excursions in this session. Verstappen had a big moment through Turn Nine, but managed to take back control after hurtling through the gravel trap. His race engineer reported on the team radio that the incident was the result of a gust of wind. Lance Stroll, who crashed several times here in Winter Testing, had an off through Turn Eight. He regained control of his FW40 before it was too late. Meanwhile, Bottas reported a lack of stability before running through the gravel trap at Turn Seven.
The session was red flagged due to debris on the track which came from the rear of Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso when he ran over the kerbs at Turn Nine. The debris was soon cleared away and the action resumed with 25 minutes of running remaining.
Jolyon Palmer, who didn’t take part in the first session, made up for lost time by completing the most laps of anyone in the afternoon.
“It was good to get out in the car for the afternoon after sitting out in the morning. The car feels a lot better when using the Soft tyre as the balance on the Medium wasn’t too great. We had a productive session with a strong tally of trouble-free laps. I’ve got a few areas to work on with my engineers but overall it’s been a solid afternoon.”
The lap times improved throughout the session as all the cars ran on the softest tyre compound available. Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time – a 1:20.802. Mercedes look to be ahead on both qualifying runs and on the long runs, though Ferrari were much closer in the afternoon than they were in the morning. Red Bull, with their upgraded package, got the gap to Ferrari down to around two tenths.
Full Result from Free Practice Two:
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.636|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.783|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+1.463|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+1.718|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1.920|
|18||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+2.434|
Header Image: Force India F1 Team
Nicky Haldenby is a freelance writer from Scarborough, England. After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fourth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations, and sister site GPDestinations, where he shares regular race previews and articles focussed around the latest in Formula 1 calendar and venue news. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky can also be heard regularly as a guest on various Formula 1 radio shows and podcasts.